In artillery, a chain-shot is an obsolete type of naval ammunition formed of two sub-calibre balls, or half-balls, chained together. Bar shot is similar, but joined by a solid bar. They were used in naval warfare in the age of sailing ships and black powder cannons to shoot masts, or to cut the shrouds and any other rigging of a target ship.
Chain shot was used by the defenders of Magdeburg in May 1631 as an anti-personnel load, which according to counselor Otto von Guericke was one reason for the extreme violence of the victorious attackers.
When fired, after leaving the muzzle, the shot's components tumble in the air, and the connecting chain fully extends. In past use, as much as six feet of chain would sweep through the target. However, the tumbling made both bar and chain shot less accurate, so they were used at shorter ranges.
The military usefulness of chain shot died out as wooden sail-powered ships were replaced with armored steam ships — first among navies, and then among commercial fleets — which do not have sails and riggings to serve as proper targets for chain-shot. Additionally, the conversion of naval armament from smoothbore, muzzle loaded, black powder cannons to rifled, breech loaded guns further slowed the production of new chain shot ammunition; the chain would damage barrels (degrading maximum range, and further degrading effective range by degrading accuracy), and the new breech loading guns and their ammunition were meant to be effective against armored vessels as well as wooden sailing vessels.
In modern times, the effect is replicated in shotguns with the use of Bolo shells — a pair of slugs connected by a strong wire. They are banned in several jurisdictions, including Florida and Illinois.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.
- Otto von Guericke: Geschichte der Belagerung, Eroberung und Zerstoerung von Magdeburg, 2. Auflage 1882, S. 16ff.
- "Pirate Tech". Modern Marvels. 2006-07-09.
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